School music lessons will be free for all youngsters from the start of the new term, thanks to more than £7 million of Scottish Government cash.
As well as making the money available to councils to scrap the charges, ministers are providing a further £6 million to get rid of charges in “core curriculum” courses – removing the need for families to pay for items such as ingredients for home economics classes or theatre trips for drama studies.
Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said the cash – which fulfils pledges made in the SNP’s election manifesto – meant that youngsters’ education would no longer be limited by their family’s ability to pay.
It comes after a high-profile campaign for charges for music lessons to be scrapped, which was backed by the leading violinist Nicola Benedetti, amongst others.
Ms Somerville stated: “My priority is to ensure the best possible outcomes for all of Scotland’s children and young people, whatever their background.
“All children should have the best start in life and the ability to take part in core elements of education should never be limited by a child’s ability to pay.
“Today’s announcement means families will not see bills for musical tuition or core curriculum activities in the new school year.”
The funding announced will cover these costs for the 2021-22 academic year, with Ms Somerville promising to work with local authority leaders in the councils’ organisation Cosla to “develop a sustainable and funded model for future years”.
Stephen McCabe, Cosla’s spokesman for children and young people, said: “Councils recognise the importance of instrumental music tuition for the learning and development of our children and young people.
“Where fees were in place for tuition this is due to a range of local pressures on core council budgets. The one-year funding package agreed between Cosla leaders and Scottish Government will allow for the removal of fees in the coming academic year and the maintenance of existing levels of provision, so that fees and charges are not a barrier to learning an instrument.”
He added: “We welcome the commitment from the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills to work with Cosla and partners in the sector to consider the intent, impact, and broader implications of this Scottish Government policy intervention and to develop a model for the long-term sustainability of instrumental music tuition services across Scotland which must include sustainable funding arrangements for all councils.”